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Flyers Aim To Tame The Cats: Game Preview

Mark RitterSenior Writer IOctober 16, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 19:  Jeff Carter #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Round of the 2009 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs  at the Wachovia Center on April 19, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter

Coming off a two game losing streak, the Philadelphia Flyers players have spent a good portion of this week working on their fishing and team bonding.

The Flyers have had five days off since their 3-2 loss to Anaheim last Saturday. The decision to use the time to concentrate on team bonding should pay dividends down the road, but it does raise questions as to whether or not the Flyers will be ready to compete when they take on the Florida Panthers tonight in Florida.

These things can easily go either way. For the most part, teams that have had a long layoff tend to come out a little flat until they find their legs, but I think the Flyers will be chomping at the bit and ready to go.

The Panthers are struggling right now. Their 1-4-0 record has them sitting 29th overall in the Standings and their special teams have been horrific with the power play hobbling along at a 9.52% success rate (29th overall) and the penalty kill whimpering in at 69.57% (23rd overall).

For all of their woes, with a 2-1-1 record against the Flyers in 2008/09, the Panthers will come into this game with some confidence. That said, if the Panthers are to have any success they will have to see a big improvement from the likes of rookie defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (who has a minus five rating), winger David Booth (who has just one goal and a minus four rating) and defenseman Bryan Allen (who has a minus six rating.)

Newly signed free agent forward and defensive specialist Dominic Moore is expected to play tonight for the Panthers. He should bring tremendous results in the face-off circle and play a steady game, something the Panthers players need to do more of.

On the other hand, the Flyers are looking pretty good thus far. Prior to the layoff, the Flyers were playing some spirited hockey, their 3-1-1 record by all accounts is a great start, something the Flyers desperately needed to start the season.

Division rivals Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers are both off to a 6-1-0 start and, as such, sit tied for first place overall. It is imperative that the Flyers keep pace with those clubs, a loss tonight, while not earth shattering, would put the Flyers in an early hole, something they want to avoid if they intend on competing for top spot in the Atlantic Division.

Flyers forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are sizzling hot as is defenseman Matt Carle. All three of them have registered eight points through the first five games. Defenseman Chris Pronger has come as advertised. He has been solid five on five and his five points thus far is impressive.

Tough luck winger Simon Gagne has yet to find the back of the net, but he has been getting his fair share of chances and, with three assists thus far, he is off to a decent start to the season.

Rugged forward Blair Betts will remain out of tonight’s contest with a dislocated shoulder and is expected to be out another week to ten days.

By all accounts it appears as if the Flyers should be able to handle the Panthers with ease. The Flyers will ice a ton of firepower and should be able to capitalize on the Panthers shoddy penalty kill.

Look for the Panthers to come out of the box quickly in hopes of catching the Flyers stuck in a lethargic start. If they can control their penalty minutes and play a simple defensive game against the Flyers they may have a chance, but one has to think that Philly is going to be tough to keep at bay and will likely have their way with Florida’s smallish forwards.

It’s a good day to be a Flyers fan, isn’t it?

Until next time,

Peace!

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